Tag Archives: Cultural Geography

Introducing New PhD Students 2016/17

 

 

Adam BadgerScreen Shot 2017-01-06 at 18.08.55.png

Space, Freedom and Control in the Digital Workplace

Having undertaken both BA Geography and MA Cultural Geography at Royal Holloway, I am delighted to return to the department for PhD study. This time, however, with a twist! As a Leverhulme Trust Magna Carta Scholarship funded candidate I have been given the opportunity to work in a wholly interdisciplinary capacity between the schools of Geography and Management. With my supervisory team – Prof. Phil Crang (Geog) and Prof. Gillian Symons (SoM) – I will be investigating the contemporary digital workplace through a range of analytical lenses. Of particular interest currently are the themes of ‘surveillance, display, and (de)territorialisation’, in addition to the development of methodological toolkits geared toward today’s changing work environments. In this race – both with and against Moore’s law – this line of study will hopefully generate exciting research into digital workplaces and, in addition, build bridges between the disciplines of Geography and Management.

 

Ed Brookes Screen Shot 2017-01-30 at 20.24.59.png

Excavating the contemporary urban geographies of Robin Hood Gardens, London

Before joining the Royal Holloway family I studied at the University of Southampton, graduating in 2013 with a BA in human geography. With a brief interlude for various jobs and travel excursions it wasn’t until 2015 when I returned to academia, enrolling in the MA Cultural Geography course at Royal Holloway. It was during this time, and with great help from the Geography Department, that I managed to secure a PhD with funding by the ESRC. With a start date of September 2017, the PhD (supervised by Dr. Oli Mould and Prof. David Gilbert) aims to explore the social and cultural urban geographies of the Robin Hood Gardens housing estate in East London. More specifically it will focus on how the present-day site, and its on-going political contestation, is continually ‘produced’ by historical and layered assemblages of materiality, culture and urban politics.

In terms of my wider research foci I am particularly interested in the geographies of home, geographies of architecture and concepts of liminality. With a particular fascination with how individuals create and navigate the spaces in which they live as well as how intimate and ‘everyday’ architectural spaces are linked to a wider urban politics. Looking beyond my academic interests, I fill my time with manufacturing unhealthy baked goods and consuming large amounts of dystopian science fiction.

 

Daniel Crawford

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(Dis)Assembling the Sacred

 

I’ve been a student in the Department of Geography at Royal Holloway since 2012, completing a BA in Geography and MA in Cultural Geography during that time. Funded by an ESRC 1+3 studentship, my PhD aims to investigate how meanings and experiences of sacred spaces are influenced by processes of material change. Within the ‘infrasecular’ present such processes are pervasive, as the relationships between communities and individuals, belief, non-belief and alternative forms of spirituality become increasingly complex, and, in parallel, sacred spaces are transformed and repurposed, made and unmade, neglected and conserved. I am interested in exploring these shifts with reference to various religious and non-religious understandings of the ‘sacred’ itself, many of which offer compelling and provocative ways of thinking about its geographies (architectural, natural, bodily, textual). These inform my current theoretical work looking at how and where silence, nonsense (and non-sense), emptiness and other negative projections of the unknowable might exert themselves. Finding suitable case studies and methodologies to clarify and focus these concerns will be my next step.

 

Katy Lawn picture1

Affective geographies of the contemporary British workplace: lifeworlds, biopolitics and precarity

I completed my undergraduate degree at Durham University, where I focused on cultural and literary geographies through a comparative study of Jack Kerouac novels and the philosophy of the (then) recently translated You Must Change Your Life by Peter Sloterdijk. After completing my undergraduate degree in 2013, I worked in a large publishing house for a year – which meant I got to meet David Starkey (very briefly). But the call of the academy was still too strong… and I returned to complete my MA at Royal Holloway in 2016 with a sustained interest in philosophies of living and emotional geographies. My PhD  work – supervised by Prof. Phil Crang and Dr. Oli Mould – will carry this interest through with a particular focus on the geographies of work, and within that, the role of affect and emotion in the workplace. I also have an interest in creative methods in social research – for example poetic ethnography and visual methods. When I am not reading critical management theory, I also like to paint, draw, and go to spoken word poetry events.

 

Flora Parrott

Swallow hole: the pursuit of darkness and uncertaintyparrott

 

I studied Fine Art at The Michaelis School of Art in Cape Town, The Glasgow School of Art and the Royal College of Art graduating with a Masters in Printmaking in 2009. Exhibitions include, Robin Gibson Gallery in Sydney, Herbert Gallery and Museum in Coventry and the Ryedale Folk Museum, The Cosmos, Residency & Relatively Absolute at Wysing Arts Centre, The Negligent Eye at The Bluecoat, Liverpool, and Thin Place, Oriel Myrddin, Wales. In 2012 I received an Artist International Development Grant to travel to Brazil, the resulting project ‘Fixed Position’ showed at Tintype London, Projeto Fidalga, São Paulo and in The Earth Science Museum at The University São Paulo.

My teaching experience includes: Lecturer at Norwich University College of the Arts and Senior Lecturer at Kingston University. I am also currently visiting lecturer at UCA, and the universities of Birmingham, Bath and Bournemouth.

In 2016 I was Artist in Residence at RGS-IBG and The Leverhulme Artist in Residence in the Geography Department at Royal Holloway University London, developing a project titled ‘Swallet’. Current projects include a publication with Camberwell Press and an upcoming group show at Norwich Castle Museum.
 

Huw Rowlands

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Historical and contemporary performance of cross-cultural first contact encounters: temporal and spatial dynamics

As first year AHRC-funded PhD student, I focus on re-performances of first-contact encounters in colonial-indigenous relationships. My research explores the roles of these encounters and their subsequent expressions in a range of media and contexts, such as neo-historical novels, dance/theatre, oral traditions, and exhibitions, including in the contemporary world. Seen through the lenses of performance and performativity, the research aims to understand the role of first contact re-performances in the cross-cultural dynamics of contemporary societies. I am supervised by Felix Driver and advised by Helen Gilbert.

A ‘Surgeon’ since undertaking an MA in the department 2014-15, I particularly enjoy the interdisciplinary nature of surgeries. Interdisciplinary, eclectic, curious, these are all words that seem to characterise my life; so far anyway. As a public/third sector project manager for 20 years, I worked on such diverse projects as the creation of a long-distance footpath between Winchester and Mont Saint Michel, funding Gaelic language tourism in Scotland, looking for life on Mars, and organising a multicultural percussion festival in the mountains of France. I taught geography, junk percussion and creative writing in both France and in UK Steiner schools over four years, and am also currently working (very) part-time as project co-manager, modern maps processing at the British Library.

My other interests include samba-reggae, photography, knitting, garden design, drawing, theatre, world music, walking and badminton.

 

Joy Slappnigjoy.JPG

The Indigenous Map

My PhD project (which is part of the Collaborative Doctoral Award (CDA) scheme and supervised by Prof. Felix Driver and Dr. Catherine Souch) seeks to establish Indigenous contribution to the map collection at the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), and to explore the historical significance of “Indigenous maps” as sources of geographical information, as ethnographic objects, and as artefacts of encounter. I’m new to Geography and intrigued by the diversity of the discipline, and to see what my academic background can bring to my PhD. I completed a BA in History at King’s College London (my dissertation focused on the influence of bebop on racial integration in New York during the 1940s and ‘50s), and an MSc in Visual, Material and Museum Anthropology at the University of Oxford (where my final project investigated how the “remnants” of repatriated objects in American museums (catalogue records, exhibition labels, photographs, etc.), influence Indigenous presence in those institutions). I’m interested in the geographies of exchange and encounter, material anthropology, post-colonial studies, as well as ethnographic collections, and the ways in which they have been assembled (and sometimes disassembled), displayed and otherwise engaged with, and used in the production of knowledge. I really liked participating in curatorial research internships at the Brooklyn Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, during which I worked on a repatriation procedure with the Laguna Pueblo tribe, and on an exhibition of pre-Columbian architectural models. A you might expect, I enjoy visiting the London museums in my free time (the Hunterian Museum is a recent favourite), and I also like going to the movies. I’ve just moved to the northwest of London and I’m currently enjoying the novel NW by Zadie Smith. 

 

 

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Industrial Photography Performed: The Struggle for Energy from Modernism to the Cold War

 

Our joint presentation drew upon photographic materials produced in the context of the industrial development of energy production in the United States and the GDR. While the photographs discussed in our presentations were produced in distinct political systems, at different points in time—Modernism in the early 20th century and towards the end of the Cold War in the 1970s—from different perspectives and for different audiences, the common ground between both papers is the analysis of the uses of photography and how they performed in the struggle for energy. Therefore, both case studies present different views on how photography was used as a medium through which the exploitation of natural resources for energy production was visually represented and commercially and socially understood.

Using the Ralph Arnold photographic album collection at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California, the first study outlined the use of photography as a key element in the formation of the emerging oil industry in the Western United States in the early twentieth century. Ralph Arnold (1875-1961) was an American geologist and petroleum engineer whose photographs taken during several geological surveys in California, Wyoming, Oklahoma and Texas were part of a collective scientific and financial effort to lobby for appropriate oil taxation and the recognition of the role of the petroleum engineer in oil exploration.

The second study discussed the visual dialogue between Nguyen The Thuc’s Kohle unter Magdeborn (Coal beneath Magdeborn) (1976), a photographic album documenting an open cast coal mining site and the devastation of its inhabitant community in the GDR, and Christiane Eisler’s series of commissioned photographs of the revisited mining site and contemporary Leipzig, produced in the period 2012 to 2014. The album and the new series of works were shown together in the 2014 exhibition Freundschaftsantiqua in Leipzig (Germany). The bodies of work reflect the changes in the industrialised environment through expanding and contracting resource extraction and the effects on its inhabitants. They are also documents of an international cultural production and GDR culture politics. The medium of photography was selected as exhibition focus due to its propensity to visually communicate across different cultures.

wood fossil_Magdeborn

Fossilised tree fragment, entrance area at Zweckverband Abfallwirtschaft Westsachsen waste deposit site, 2015, photograph: Bergit Arends

Freundschaftsantiqua_installation detail

Freundschaftsantiqua 2014, Galerie fuer Zeitgenoessische Kunst Leipzig (Germany), exhibition detail, photography: Sebastian Schroeder

 

Jointly we explored the performativity and fluidity of meaning of photographic images. How is meaning shaped by institutional discourses, disciplinary perspectives, and expertise. How were photographs taken by petroleum engineers used to shape the oil industry in terms of scientific exploration, commercial capabilities and policy reforms in the American West? How did the project from the GDR contribute to, or contravene, a political and environmental discourse in documenting how humans were affected by a visibly polluting energy production? Or did the images in both case studies contribute to a discourse of personal sacrifice towards a collective ‘greater good’ and moral duty for the nation?

Bergit Arends and Noeme Santana

 

Bibliography

+ contextual reading on the international circulation and audiences of photographs of American West taken by Timothy O’Sullivan during the Clarence King Surveys between 1867 and 1872:

Brunet, F., (2012) ‘Showing American Geography Abroad in the Victorian Era: The International Reception of the King Survey Work’, in: Timothy O’Sullivan: The King Survey Photographs, Davis, K. and Aspinwall,J. (ed.), New Haven: Yale University Press, pp. 185-195

+ for some insights into GDR photography by a GDR/Germany-based curator. Exhibition catalogue of the first survey exhibition of GDR photography in the UK, curated by Matthew Shaul:

Immisch, T. O. (2007), ‘Appearance and Being: GDR Photography of the 1970s and 1980s’, in: Do Not Refreeze: Photography behind the Berlin Wall, exh. cat., Manchester: Cornerhouse Publications, pp. 24-27

+ one history on the subject of energy in the USA and Germany

Radkau, J., (1996), ‘Energy: Genie or Genius? – How steam, electricity and oil heralded global change’, History Today, vol 46; MNTH 11, pp. 14-19

+ photography theory from 1983 for social and economic discourses on images at the example of images (1948-1968) by a commercial photographer in the coal-mining region of Cape Breton:

Sekula, A. (2003) ‘Reading an Archive. Photography between Labour and Capital’, in: The Photography Reader, Wells, L. (ed.), London: Routledge, pp. 443-452

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RHUL Geography Department to host ‘Cornwall Connections’ Symposium

On 12th March 2016 the Institute of Cornish Studies, part of the University of Exeter, will be holding a symposium at Royal Holloway, University of London in association with the Geography Department of that historic institution. The aim of the day is to explore both historical and contemporary connections between Cornwall and London with papers exploring topics like migration and centre-periphery relations. We would welcome papers from a broad range of disciplines and presented in a conventional lecture format or in a film or poster presentation.

It is appropriate that the symposium is being held at Royal Holloway since Thomas Holloway, the founder of the institution, had connections to the West Cornwall town of Penzance. If successful the aim is to hold similar events in the future both in other areas of Britain and overseas.

If you are interested in giving a presentation please send an abstract of 150 words along with name, title and institutional affiliation to both

cornishstudies@exeter.ac.uk and ben.gilby.2014@live.rhul.ac.uk by 10th February.

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Home? My thoughts, feelings and experiences…

“we enter our house through the front door, but enter our home through our slippers” (Bachelard’s 2003:1939).

Home can shift across geographical space, yet it is usually the centre of each person’s universe (Douglas, 1991). This post is going to explore my own, personal associations with ‘home’ and my own experiences with having multiple homes. Geographers have realised that home is essential to everyday life, and is therefore an important site of geographical research (Blunt and Varley, 2004). Domestic space – the home – is an ever growing sub-discipline within geography and due to international migration, the movement and settling of people is also changing, and consequently, so does the theoretical context in which home is placed (Walsh, 2011).

Okay, so to start; I was born in Holland, quite a small country, famous for the stunning scenery, tulips, clogs and windmills. I was born in Groningen, (North) Holland and as my mother is Dutch, I have a Dutch passport: so I am, therefore, Dutch; The Netherlands is my ‘homeland’. I guess I end up with a diasporic identity; which along with material and imagined connections of my childhood means I always feel ‘at home’ in Holland but maintain connections with other places as well (Blunt, 2007).  Whenever I go back to see my family, as I fly in over the coast and land in Amsterdam, I hear the language, see familiar places and I get a warm, fuzzy feeling which makes me happy. A full sensory overload of being ‘at home’ – I like to think this will never go away. I am proud to call Holland home.

Dubai, in contrast to Holland is huge, and with the city comes a variety of connotations of wealth, skyscrapers, beaches and Palm Island; it’s a city that attracts thousands of migrants (and tourists) each year, for a variety of different reasons. Having said this, Dubai also has a negative global image of “gated communities, conspicuous consumption, exploitation of labour and ‘unsustainable’ growth” (Walsh, 2012). Dubai is one of the richest cities in the world, through oil wealth, huge tourist industry and international investment. Due to these circumstances it is a popular destination for expatriates and their families; however, owing to its rapid growth and globalisation, it can be argued that it is a difficult country in which to feel ‘at home’. Expatriate feelings of ‘home’ in Dubai are complex; feelings of belonging, security and everyday-life can be quite different to what people expect. According to Ahmed (1999), a home can be multiple places, which reiterates the expatriate’s idea that ‘home’ is a more complex understanding than just a house which one inhabits.

In Walsh’s study on Home in Dubai; there is a specific interest in how families recreate the feelings of belonging and intimacy through friendships. Walsh (2009) goes on to say that friendships in places such as Dubai are often strong; mainly due to the mutual characteristics and experiences that the expatriates share. People are highly dependent on their relationships with others, and the social ties that are created within an unfamiliar space are vital to feel comfortable and to produce a sense of belonging. Basically, the friends I made really did make me feel ‘at home’ when I was growing-up, which is something I remember fondly about Dubai. Remembering and imagining homelands is common (Blunt, 2007). Home can be a physical location, but also a metaphorical space of emotion and belonging; and this is definitely true in my case, as these are the feelings I get when thinking about Dubai; it will always feel like a home.

I moved back to England when I was 10, I remember feeling quite lost, but of course, those feeling of insecurity soon disappeared when I settled into school and make new friends, and now I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. I had similar emotions when I moved away to university to Royal Holloway, University of London: students end up living in two homes with differing qualities,  the parental/familial home; and the temporary student home; new spaces which then become meaningful and important to each one of us through freedom for personalisation and independence (Hinton, 2011 and Thomsen, 2007). The importance of identity, security and self-esteem reiterate that although student housing may be temporary, the feeling of being ‘at home’ and the emotions which surround this are still very important.

I recently, moved again; having lived in university halls in my first year of university, I thought it would be great to live in them again as a ‘post-grad’ – I was quite wrong. From my previous experience in my first year, it was a great social space, designed so you had communal space to be with friends and your own space when needed. Having said this, when you take the ‘social’ out of the communal space, it can become lonely. I’m not afraid to admit that halls can be unsociable, lonely and claustrophobic. Home’ is meant to be a place in which we belong, where we are familiar, a site where we feel at ease and comfortable (Blunt and Dowling, 2006). This was certainly not the case for me for the first few months. So, as all good things start with a dream, I asked my best-friend if she would move out of her halls and live in a house with me… and thankfully, 3 months later; we have a beautiful little house, where I am happy, comfortable, and cozy and I feel safe. Basically, the point I’m trying to make is that as people change, our ‘homely’ needs change as well. Four years ago I was happy in halls, this year the tiny room did not quite meet my expectations, on any level.

A running theme throughout all of these places: Dubai, Holland, my familial home, and university, it is the people I interact with in each space which makes it meaningful and therefore; in part, my home. These people create the feelings which one’s home should illustrate: belonging, comfort, love, and safety; I think this quote from Kaika illustrates this well; “The modern home became constructed not only as a line separating the inside from the outside (a house), but also as the epitome, the spatial inscription of the idea of individual freedom, a place liberated from fear and anxiety, a place supposedly untouched by social, political and natural processes, a place enjoying an autonomous and independent existence: a home” (2004: 266).

-Emma Shenton (MA, Cultural Geography Research)

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Introducing Benjamin Newman – CDA Student

Hello Surgeons!

I’m Ben, an AHRC-funded Collaborative Doctoral Award (CDA) student working in partnership with the department and the Royal Ben Newman Geographical Society (with IBG). I am supervised jointly by Dr. Innes Keighren and Dr. Catherine Souch (Head of Research and Higher Education Division at the RGS), with Prof. Klaus Dodds offering guidance and support for good measure.

My journey at Royal Holloway started some 5 years ago when I joined the department as a young, fresh-faced undergraduate student. I completed my undergraduate degree on the BA Geography course, where I was introduced to the world of historical geography on the second-year research field trip to New York. I moved on to the MA in Cultural Geography (Research) in 2013 (notwithstanding that fact I hadn’t previously undertaken any of the cultural geography modules available at undergraduate level). Despite an apprehensive start, I enjoyed the new and varied concepts introduced in each of the seminars and creative practices (which including strapping a Go-Pro to a dog), however, almost inevitably, I found myself back in the archive to complete my MA dissertation.

Throughout my time at Royal Holloway, I used the respective dissertations to hone the clumsy archival research skills that would have been on display in the New York Public Library years earlier. My undergraduate dissertation took me to the League of Nations Archive on the United Nations campus in Geneva and considered the conception, implementation, and circulation of the League of Nations’ interwar nutrition programs. Since the glamour of New York and Geneva things have come slightly closer to home. Under the guidance of Prof. Felix Driver, I found Richard Dennis’s and others fascinating work on nineteenth-century modernity and formulated a project considering the new lived experience and politics of the first, deep-level electric underground railway in London (and the world).

Now I am here, starting another exciting adventure, it was never meant to happen like this, but Harriet could sell ice to the inuit or, more appropriately, PhDs/MAs to students who aren’t quite sure if they are ready for the next step. Although I have been at Royal Holloway for years, I have been exposed to a range of geographic concepts not least at LS. Broadly I am interested in historical geographies of the nineteenth century (I think it’s a great time period to work in given its turbulence and rapidity, the emergence of new geographic experiences and knowledge making) and the mobility of people, objects, and knowledge during that period. I am currently working under the title: “Geography in Dialogue: Print Culture at the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), c. 1830–c. 2000”. The project uses The Geographical Journal (GJ) as an empirical focus. First printed in 1831, a year after the founding of the RGS, the GJ’s long-standing tradition of publishing lectures delivered in the Society alongside the questions and discussions which followed them, offers an important insight into the circulation and reception of ideas within geography and the nature of the discipline’s dialogues throughout time and space. As a CDA student, the project was formulated by my respective supervisors and, therefore, currently a significant portion of my time is dedicated to the reworking of the project within the loose parameters already set out in the original AHRC proposal.

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“What’s your research for?”

Over the last few months, several research participants have expressed an interest in the “why” of my research – what I’m hoping to achieve, what good I think it might do, if there’s any human behaviour I believe could be changed or encouraged by it, and so on. Their questions made me realise how little I’d really considered this recently: I’d started to take for granted, I guess, that what was interesting to me would be obviously relevant to others.

Crafting responses to my research participants’ questions turned out to be a great exercise in thinking through the way I justify my work, and particularly in thinking through how to express the more abstract value of the kind of research I – and perhaps other surgeons, too – am doing. So I wrote a post about this on my research blog, excerpted below:

Over the last few months, a few research participants have asked me variations of the same question, which is something like: What’s your research for? What do you hope it will change or inform?

It’s a good question, and one that, until recently, I hadn’t really given much thought to. On the one hand, I’m wary of overplaying the potential implications of my research, and it would be disingenuous for me to claim that I’m aiming to directly influence policy, or that I have some grand notion that my project is going to change the world. On the other hand, I do believe there’s value to what I’m doing beyond just the satisfaction of personal curiosity.

To some extent the project is about highlighting the potential good that swimming can do (physically, emotionally, societally), and recognizing the importance of the pool as a site for this activity – particularly through an exploration of the extent to which specific material aspects of the pool environment may help or hinder regular participation. So I hope that the research may shed some light on how people are using and interacting with indoor pools, what about the pool environment is important to them and encourages or enables a regular practice and what about the environment is discomfiting or discouraging.

I’m also interested in the way people experience places via their bodies, and vice versa – the way they experience their bodies via certain places. So I think there’s also an opportunity here for the research to illuminate ways in which habitual lap swimming changes or brings to the fore people’s awareness of and attitude towards their own bodies. I’m thinking, for instance, of the participant who told me that she likes what swimming has done to her body both in terms of what it can do and also what it looks like; it took exercise, she said, for her to learn to love her body. So the value here may lie partly in using an exploration of people’s relationship to their swimming bodies as a way of exploring what facilitates comfort in/with one’s body more generally. The body, after all, is the home we cannot leave, and the pool provides a uniquely intimate and anonymous environment in which to exercise and experience this home.

Fundamentally, though, I’m just fascinated by swimming pools as places, particularly given how banal they often seem, how ugly and purely functional and even unwelcoming the architecture and environment can be. So the project is, at its heart, about not only valuing the place of the pool – which may be easily overlooked – but also about valuing other everyday places more generally: it’s great to write about grander landscapes, but I think it’s also important to pay attention to the kinds of smaller-scale places that people encounter repeatedly in their daily lives.

 You can read the full post here – and I’d be interested in hearing from fellow surgeons who’ve grappled with similar questions!

Miranda Ward (PhD Candidate)

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Introducing Simon Cook – PhD Student

Hello Surgeons!

I officially joined the Social and Cultural Geography Research Group as a PhD student in October this year, and although not technically new to the department or to the blog, I am here to introduce myself as part of a series of new students saying ‘Hello world’.

CookSimon

Personal Profile

I joined the Department of Geography at RHUL in 2013 to undertake the MA in Cultural Geography and have since stayed on the do my PhD under the expert supervision of Professor Pete Adey. Prior to this I was based in the wonderful School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences at Plymouth University from 2010 – 2013 where I really gained my enthusiasm and passion for human geography. My postgraduate studies are funded by an ESRC 1+3 studentship.

Research Interests 

I am a human geographer with broad interests that transect social, cultural and transport geography. My principle research enthusiasms include:

  • Running geographies
  • Corporeal mobilities
  • Active transport
  • Connections between transport geography and mobilities research
  • Intersections of transport, sport and leisure practices
  • The revitalisation of sport geographies
  • Mobilities design
  • Mobile methods
  • Public geographies/engagement

My research concerns a range of banal and mobile practices that occur in public spaces and their importance for street-level politics, urban design, the experiences and meanings of everyday life as well as understandings of place, space and mobility. I am intrigued by practices that cross-boundaries, that can simultaneously be transport and leisure modes and the tensions that these can conjure up. I also hold a wider interest in methodological innovation and public geographies. All these curiosities are currently manifest in my PhD study that is a broad project exploring the mobile practice of running with a specific focus on run-commuting and running’s potential as a transport mode. This project is provisionally titled Run-Commuting in the City: Movement, Meaning and Experience and seeks to 1) understand the emerging practice of run-commuting, 2) assess its potential as a transport mode, and 3) explore what can be done to encourage the practice.

Run-Commuters.  Thanks to Gareth Lewis for the image.

Run-Commuters.
Thanks to Gareth Lewis for the image.

Contact Details

If you want to find out more about my work and discuss any of it with me (and please do), there are a range of ways to follow my research and contact me:

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Souvenir Geographies — My first year PhD presentation in Landscape Surgery

Shirt of London Made in Turkey, (photo by author, taken in Cool Britannia, summer 2014)

Shirt of London Made in Turkey, (photo by author, taken in Cool Britannia, summer 2014)

The first-year PhD presentation day is a tradition of Landscape Surgery. I attended it last year as an audience member when I was a MA student, and was honoured to be a speaker in it this year. For the LS presentation, I created a slideshow to help demonstrate my PhD (available here), which can also give you a taste of my PhD.

This project looks at a widely-loved object: the souvenir. Many people keep souvenirs as reminders of a person, place, or event. A souvenir is inherently geographical based on its nature. A souvenir’s mobility is its most outstanding geographical characteristic: souvenirs move from the place of tourism to the place of home; from ‘extraordinary’ place to the world of the ‘ordinary’. Although souvenirs take on many forms, functions and representations, they are often formally associated with a specific geographical place.

Studies related to souvenirs in SCG are rare. Morgan & Pritchard (2005) studied souvenir and self-identity; Hashimoto & Telfer (2007) talked about authentic geographical souvenirs in Canada; Ramsay (2009) had an impressive field work of souvenir production sites in Swaziland; while Peters (2011) studied banal souvenirs’ home placement. Souvenirs studies have potential for exploration.

My PhD project ‘Souvenir Geographies: Authenticity and Place Making’ focus on souvenirs on two way: one is to explore how souvenirs’ authenticity and meaning change along with places; secondly it looks at how souvenirs shape places in the terms of place making. This process is revealed by following souvenirs in a linear route: from the making sites, tourist sites, transport sites (AKA non-places: airports, train stations; Augé, 1994) and then to the tourists’ homes. In this quadruple layer process, souvenir’s spatiotemporal peculiarity makes it a great object to follow, and to analysis from a geographical perspective. Putting my Cultural Geographer’s hat on, I analysis souvenirs based on their spatial movements.

In the terms of methodology, ‘following the thing’ and visual ethnography are the most basic and key methods used through out the whole project. Apart from these, semi_structured interviews, using postcards as a method, participant observation, keeping fieldwork diary: text, image and video, and blogging as a method (project blog) are also used in this project. When it comes to field work, two fields are considered for this project. The first one is UK, and the other is China. In each case, equal factories, tourist sites, transporting sites and homes will be visited and same number of postcards will be handed out.

Souvenirs studying is an innovative and novel topic area in Cultural Geography, which promises to contribute to discussions in a range of geographical topics: material culture, place and, in particular, tourism studies.

Zhuyun (Amy) Zang, PhD Candidate

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Self portraits of a surgeon: My love for all things Geography

I have always loved Geography and always will.  I often get asked why I chose to do Geography, to which I reply, I am fascinated by how spaces and places operate and interact with each other, this is why I chose to become a Geographer. So what exactly it is that Geographers do?  I find the best way to explain to people is that we take aspects of different disciplines like economics and add a spatial component.  Am I cultural Geographer? You could say I suffer from imposter syndrome, because of my diverse Geography education background.

My undergraduate degree was in physical Geography, concentrating mainly on applied physical Geography and environmental management. From this I began to develop an interest in the more human aspects of it and undertook courses in urban Geography, which led to my Masters degree in human Geography.  I found this a difficult transition at first and often wondered if I had made a mistake in taking on something I had no idea about. I had never read or heard of Marx, Gramsci, Freud, or Lacan.  I was out of my depth. But after a lot of very slow reading, perseverance, and encouragement I began to feel more comfortable with this kind of material.

My MA research looked at how Aboriginal people in Vancouver, Whistler, and the surrounds were engaged in the 2010 Winter Olympic Games planning process, considering the specific claims of Canada’s Aboriginal population to the right to participate in public processes. Although it was largely based on social sustainability, I began to find myself reading a lot on cultural Geography, and became interested in it as it played a significant role in my research. More specifically I was interested in the questions of commodification and appropriation of culture, and the extent to which Aboriginal participation in the 2010 Olympic Games was a spectacle.   It was this, and a certain Geography professor at Simon Fraser University (you know who you are!) who encouraged me to peruse cultural Geography at Royal Holloway and work with Professor Phil Crang.

I began to develop my interests in the commodification and consumption of culture by moving on to look at the consumption of diasporic Iranian culture, and in particular food. I still have a slight case of imposter syndrome, but I am a cultural Geographer, not because of what I study but the ways in which I study it.  Again, I had chosen to dive straight into the unfamiliar, researching a diaspora and topic I knew very little about. I chose to take an ethnographic approach to my research, by going to various Iranian cultural events (I also found it was a great way for my parents to learn about what it is that I do!), learning some Farsi, meeting with Persian people, and of course eating lots of Persian food.  I found that best way to try to understand the unfamiliar was to immerse myself into it. But more seriously it allowed me to gain the access I needed when conducting my fieldwork.

Am I cultural Geographer? I suppose I am, although I feel that I am just a Geographer as I like to dip and dive into other aspects of Geography like GIS, urban Geography, and geomorphology. I was advised that one should venture outside their research comfort zone by attending different sessions at conferences like the AAG.  For example, attending a session on curation in cultural economies at the 2013 AAG in LA has been helpful in the analysis and writing process of my empirical chapter on the designing of diasporic Iranian commercial food spaces.  In addition to expanding my network, it has led me to co-organise a session on curation integrating a cultural and economic geography approach at the 2014 RGS*.

My name is Priya, and I am a cultural Geographer.

 

Priya Vadi (PhD Candidate)

 

* For full details on the session please go to http://www.egrg.rgs.org/conferences-symposia/rgs-ibg/ and click on the “Where culture meets economy: co-producing conceptual understandings of curation” link

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Self-Portraits of a Surgeon – My Affair with Cultural Geography

ImageIt was never meant to happen. I was just curious; experimental. I mean, it was my first year at university – this is what you’re meant to do right? I was just messing around but I knew where my passions really lay. Yet before I realised, something changed – my flirting was no longer just harmless, tangential fun. It meant something. I had to be honest with myself – I no longer liked what I used to, I was into something different and it was exciting.

Starting my undergraduate degree at Plymouth, I was an ardent physical geographer. My experience of geography up till that point had told me that human geography was pretty boring and it was in the physical sciences where it was really happening. Indeed I remember being quite taken aback during sixth form when someone suggested that I must favour the human side of discipline. I could not dispute their reasoning (based on my very social science/humanities A-Level subjects) but the conclusion almost repulsed me. A similar feeling of steadfastness was experienced in my first lecture at Plymouth when Dr Richard Yarwood ‘guaranteed’ that the majority of us in the room would favour human geography by the end of the degree.

I was tempted within two weeks.

The introductory lectures in human geography were nothing like what I had experienced hitherto – they were exciting, intriguing and seemed to be about real life – about people, places, the world. In comparison, the physical lectures seemed dated, dull and if I am going to be honest – too sciencey for me.  I was slowly being seduced by human geography. I found it fascinating that you could use poetry in geographical enquiry, that a coastal walk could be cutting edge fieldwork. By Christmas I was a fully-fledged human-geography-convert when I was introduced to Yi-Fu Tuan. Assigned an essay about my sense of place, I discovered the idea that peoples’ feeling, emotions, actions, thoughts and opinions about things really mattered, in life and in geography. What a revelation that was, since that point I haven’t taken a single physical geography module – I was a human geographer and proud.

The remaining two and a half years at Plymouth were spent finding my feet, I was still cagey in this new ground; unsure of what human geography really was, what held it together and what type of human geographer I was. I was definitely having a crisis of identity, struggling to articulate to my family and friends what it is I was studying and how it all related to geography. Unfortunately this is not a story of epiphanic realisation or how I became a born-again cultural geographer. Truth be told, I still have the same difficulty – sometimes I say I am a cultural geographer, sometimes a social-cultural geographer, sometimes a human geographer, sometimes a geographer and sometimes just a researcher. I have a fuzzy academic identity but I know I have found a home in cultural geography.

I ended up at Royal Holloway, studying the MA Cultural Geography, not because I decided I was a cultural geographer (in fact I had never had a cultural geography lecture before I enrolled) but because so much of the geography that really excited me was coming from here. If I have assumed the label of a cultural geographer because of that, I am ok with it because I feel cultural geography and me are well-matched. In my first seminar here we discussed what culture and cultural geography were. We concluded that we did not know. The concept of culture is too difficult to pin down, the remit of cultural geography is broad beyond compare and cultural geographers come from such diverse disciplinary backgrounds – there is no archetypal cultural geographer.

It appears that cultural geography is also very fuzzy. While I may struggle to explain at a party what I do and why I do it in a catchy sound bite, I am happy to embrace all this fuzziness and run with it – the results of which are enthusiasm, excitement and fascination. While I recognise the jack of all trades, master of none argument, I am not concerned by it. I prefer to think of cultural geography, not as a list of researchable topics, but as a disposition and way of thinking. To me cultural geography explores how spaces, places, people and things are, how they become meaningful, how they are experienced, and how they are perceived, imagined and practised by different people / things. It is about how we live our lives, the places we live in, how we create meaning and the affects/effects of such things and yes, that is very broad but also of incredible importance.

I am curious about the world, and cultural geography not only accommodates this widespread concern but actively encourages it; constantly questioning, challenging and pushing me to think in different ways, research in different ways and see the world from different perspectives. 3 years 4 months ago, I would not believe it but: my name is Simon Cook and I am having an affair with cultural geography.

Simon Cook (M.A Candidate)

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